The most dangerous phrase in the language is…

This photo’s been floating about Twitter and other online venues for the past couple of weeks. We’re firm believers in this philosophy, so we’re more than happy to share it with you:

the most dangerous phrase

The quote is attributed to Rear Admiral Grace Hopper, whose achievements in tech are notable. Here’s the first paragraph of her Wikipedia entry:

grace hopperGrace Murray Hopper (December 9, 1906 – January 1, 1992) was an American computer scientist and United States Navy rear admiral.[1]A pioneer in the field, she was one of the first programmers of the Harvard Mark I computer, and developed the first compiler for a computer programming language.[2][3][4][5][6] She popularized the idea of machine-independent programming languages, which led to the development of COBOL, one of the first modern programming languages. She is credited with popularizing the term “debugging” for fixing computer glitches (inspired by an actual moth removed from the computer). Owing to the breadth of her accomplishments and her naval rank, she is sometimes referred to as “Amazing Grace”.[7][8] The U.S. Navy destroyer USS Hopper (DDG-70) is named for her, as was theCray XE6 “Hopper” supercomputer at NERSC.

this article also appears in the GSG blog


Dirty laundry aired in the Apple/Samsung patent infringement suit, part two: The Samsung documents

apple vs samsung 2

Yesterday, we looked at three internal Apple documents that were presented in the Apple/Samsung patent infringement suit. These showed a side of Apple that we normally don’t see: a company that is worried about the competition, is greatly concerned that they might not be offering what customers want right now, and despite having produced some of the industry’s most memorable ads, is greatly disappointed with their advertising agency.

Today, we’ll look at three internal Samsung documents that came to light in the case’s opening arguments. As with Apple, these documents show a company that is watching its competition closely and looking to shore up its shortcomings.

Touch and software: The new value drivers

samsung 2008 - 1This first document is a slide presentation titled 3G iPhone US market impact, which was probably meant to convince Samsung management that smartphones were the future. Dated July 2008, between the time Steve Ballmer dismissed the iPhone and the time he dismissed Android, it shows a Samsung coming to realizations that would eventually make it the number one Android hardware vendor and the number two smartphone vendor in the US today.

samsung 2008 - 2

When Steve Ballmer was still thinking that business users would dismiss touch-based phones and prefer physical keyboards and that customers wanted a wide variety of hardware and hardware features to choose from, this slide presentation was putting forth the argument that:

  • Customers much preferred variety in software, rather than hardware, and
  • setting yourself apart in hardware is a more subtle matter, and geared mostly about improving the user experience.

samsung 2008 - 3

Their conclusion: software and services — which incidentally was part of the Microsoft mantra at the time — is the future of the mobile phone business. They saw mobile phones as computers that just happened to fit into your pocket and make phone calls, rather than as something you used in the place of a “real” computer.

Note the “beautiful hardware is just a bonus” line. Dismissing design is a prejudice that many (but thankfully not all) engineers have, but the best products merge both excellent engineering and beautiful, functional design.

“Beating Apple is Priority”

beat apple

Click the image to see it at full size.

Like Apple, one of the reasons that Samsung is successful is that they recognize threats. In this document, 2011 Summary and Lessons Learned / 2012 Business Forecast, they declare their own version of Steve Jobs’ “Holy War” on Google and declare Apple as Samsung Enemy Number One.

I love this slide. It states their mission for 2012 clearly and concisely: beat Apple, promote the Galaxy brand, and work closely with the carriers. It’s far less muddled than any set of goals for Windows Phone that I saw during my time as a Windows Phone Champ at Microsoft. To paraphrase web design guru Jeffrey Zeldman:

“…provide value added solutions” is not a mission statement. “Destroy All Monsters.” That is a fucking mission statement.

“What should be Samsung’s true personality?”

communicating our samsung personality

Click the image to see it at full size.

The title of this 2009 document concerns itself with the findings of a Samsung project called MIEUX, an acronym for “Make It Emotional UX”, where “UX” is industry shorthand for “user experience”. The acronym is based on the French word mieux, which means “better”.

The “better” that the project is going for is “the creation of a more intuitive and emotional Samsung Mobile interface”. They argue that the design of Samsung mobile user interfaces at that time was merely utilitarian, not user-friendly, and utterly devoid of charm. At the same time, they demonstrate how Apple was able to get both fun and functionality into the iPhone user experience. Among the recommendations in this slide deck are:

  • Replacing engineer-based UI and technology-driven features
  • Enhancing contextual connectivity
  • Offering friendly guidance
  • Intriguing users
  • Applying meaningful creativity
  • Introducing charm

The slide above was the one I thought was the most amusing in the deck: it depicts phones from Samsung’s competitors as presenting some king of personality, which Samsung’s as being merely functional and bland. The expressionless guy with the white tie/white shirt combo is a clever, if cutting, touch.

this article also appears in the GSG blog


Dirty laundry aired in the Apple/Samsung patent infringement suit, part one: The Apple documents

apple vs samsung

“You think a corporate patent infringement battle would be boring,” writes Liz Gannes at Re/code, but in during this round of the Apple/Samsung suit, the documents brought forth by both sides as evidence make for some interesting reading. In this first of two installments, we take a look at three Apple documents that have been cited in the opening arguments.

Steve Jobs: A “Holy War with Google”

Apple’s once-close alliance with Google, which included having then-CEO Eric Schmidt as a member of its board, ended after Google decided to get into the smartphone game and the two companies started stepping all over each other’s turf. It was no surprise when Schmidt left Apple’s board in 2009, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise that in 2010, Steve Jobs declared that their competition with Google was no mere fight, but a “Holy War” in a memo outlining the topics of the 2010 “Top 100” meeting, a meeting attended by people whom Job felt were the 100 most crucial people at the company.

Steve Jobs at the D8 conference in 2010. If you want to know what his thinking was at that time — at the least the public version of it — this video is probably one of the best records.

Jobs observed that while Apple’s “digital hub” approach was their bread and butter, the hub was moving away from user-owned hardware like Apple computers, and to the cloud, which is Google’s strong suit. He felt that Apple was in danger of getting stuck in the Innovator’s Dilemma, sacrificing the future by serving the present too well and failing to account for change. He said that Google and Microsoft were more advanced with their cloud technology plans, but hadn’t yet found a good way to present them as a cohesive whole, something at which Apple excels.

Job’s solution: increased lock-in, including:

  • Playing catch-up with Android in areas where iOS was behind technologically, including speech, notifications, tethering
  • Leapfrogging them where possible (Siri was provided as an example)
  • Catching up and eventually beating Google in cloud services (photos and cloud storage were provided as examples)
  • Continuing to press their advantage over Google with music
  • “Stay in the living room game and make a great ‘must have’ accessory for iOS devices”

Here’s the entire email:

Apple’s “Customers want what we don’t have” presentation

apple slide 1

Another interesting document — perhaps less so from a legal standpoint, but more so from those of us who make a living on figuring out where mobile tech is going next — is a set of slides from an internal Apple presentation given at their 2014 fiscal year planning offsite that took place only a few days ago. In it, they note that they’re facing pressure from three different and crucial directions:

  • Consumers, who want their phones bigger and cheaper,
  • Carriers, whose interests aren’t align with those of Apple, and
  • Android (yes, the slide says competitors, but right now, that’s Android), who have upped their initially sad game in both terms of product and advertising.

This slide must’ve made for uncomfortable viewing at that meeting, and as 9 to 5 Mac says, may be a sign that the iPhone 6 will be bigger:

apple slide 2

Here’s the set of slides used in the hearing:

Phil Schiller’s emails with Apple’s advertising agency

Phil Schiller is Vice President, Worldwide Marketing at Apple, isn’t happy with the state of advertising for the iPhone, and he’s likely not happy with their advertising agency, Media Arts Lab. Here’s an excerpt from an email exchange between Schiller and his contact from Media Arts Lab:

I now have Apple board members asking “what is going on with advertising and what are you doing to fix it”. The team is too good to be in this spot.

In another exchange, he has praise for Samsung’s Superbowl ad:

Progress yesterday was good on the iPad advertising. Not good on iPhone.

I’ve seen the team come in time after time with super deep analysis, thought provoking briefs, and amazing creative work that had us feeling great that we are on the right path. I can’t say that is the case now with iPhone.

I watched the Samsung pre-superbowl ad that launched today, It’s pretty good and I can’t help but think “these guys are feeling it” (like an athlete who can’t miss because they are in a zone) while we struggle to nail a compelling brief on iPhone. That’s sad because we have much better products.

In case you haven’t seen it, here’s the ad that he’s talking about:

Here’s the email containing the excerpts above:


In the next installment, we’ll look at three documents from Samsung.

this article also appears in the GSG blog


Wireless carrier news roundup: The T-Mobile/BlackBerry breakup, T-Mobile’s strategy is working, the other carriers respond, and OpenSignal rates wireless networks

 The T-Mobile/BlackBerry breakup

blackberry t-mobile fight

The spat between T-Mobile, the smallest major carrier in the US, and BlackBerry, the smallest major mobile platform, started with T-Mobile’s February email campaign aimed at BlackBerry users, encouraging them to switch to the iPhone 5S. BlackBerry CEO John Chen was very quick to chastise T-Mobile for the move, as were many of the BlackBerry faithful, who took to Twitter in a campaign with the hashtag #CHOOSEBLACKBERRY10.

T-Mobile CMO Mike Sievert reached out in a blog post aimed specifically at BlackBerry users with an offer of a $200 credit toward a new device in exchange for a working BlackBerry of any vintage, with an additional $50 savings on new BlackBerry Z10 and Q10 devices. This olive branch was likely undone by T-Mobile’s irreverent CEO John Legere who tweeted this shortly after:

In case you’re not up on your social media platforms, MySpace was once the premier social media platform, but has long since sunk to irrelevance (oddly enough, BlackBerry still has a presence there — a seemingly neglected one, but a presence nonetheless).

The licensing agreement that allows T-Mobile to sell BlackBerry products expires three weeks from now — Friday, April 25th — and quite unsurprisingly, BlackBerry has announced that it will not be renewing it. In response, John Legere said in an open letter to T-Mobile’s BlackBerry users that:

We hear you and stand with you. We always have and always will. So, obviously, we were disappointed in BlackBerry’s decision this week to end their agreement with us.

But here’s what really matters most for BlackBerry owners. Whether you’re an individual customer or business customer, nothing changes.  Nada.  Zero.  Zilch.

In fact, to show our appreciation for all current consumers so passionate and loyal to all things BlackBerry, we’re offering a $100 credit toward any new device, including the BlackBerry Q10 or the Z10.  And this offer is good through the end of the year. So you can take your time.

A number of news outlets, including Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail have described BlackBerry as having “fired” T-Mobile, but as The Wire observes, “T-Mobile’s response is essentially, ‘You can’t fire us, because we already quit.'” BlackBerry devices haven’t been taking up much, if any, shelf space at T-Mobile’s retail shops for a while, and with even less market share than Windows Phone, their walking away isn’t likely to cause Legere to lose much sleep:

T-Mobile’s consumer-friendly approach is working

brandindex 1

According to BrandIndex, a site that performs analytics on “public perception of thousands of brands across dozens of sectors”, T-Mobile’s “uncarrier” strategy has been paying off in terms of value perception. In ongoing surveys where participants are asked “Does it give you good value for what you pay?” about AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon, the perception of T-Mobile has risen steadily since the beginning of the year. As of this writing, their value perception is tied with Verizon’s for first place.

brandindex 2a

Their aggressive campaigning has also gained likely converts. Since the beginning of the year, smartphone owners looking to change carriers are increasingly naming T-Mobile, followed closely by AT&T, as their choice for a new carrier.

AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon respond


The other carriers have been affected by the T-Mobile strategy; it’s been forcing them to drop their prices for new customers to match or even beat competitors’ and to reduce prices for current customers in order to convince them to stay. AT&T introduced a rate cut for family-plan customers in February to bring their prices closer to what T-Mobile charges for a comparable deal ($140). This week, Verizon quietly cut their family rate to match AT&T’s.  Sprint has introduced the “Framily” plans in response, but at $200 a month, their price is considerably higher.

Verizon has been able to charge premium rates, justifying them through their claim that they have the best network. This claim is backed by the August 2013 JD Power study and RootMetrics’ State of the Mobile Union report published in March 2014. Even so, the market has become considerably more price-sensitive, and Verizon don’t want to lose their most valuable customers: those in the 10-gigabyte-plus category, according to Current Analysis analyst Weston Henderek. The price cuts haven’t yet turned into a drop in the average revenue per subscription for them; in fact, this average rose to $157/month, an increase of 7%.

Verizon vs. T-Mobile, and OpenSignal’s take

With Verizon traditionally charging premium rates and T-Mobile aiming to gain customers by disrupting the way carrier charge, it’s no surprise that competition between then has been pretty fierce. Here’s an ad that Verizon’s been running for the past few months, which pokes fun at T-Mobile’s network coverage:

T-Mobile fired back, with both an announcement of “legal action demanding that Verizon cease and desist the carrier’s network map advertising” and this ad:

Of course, all this posturing doesn’t help us figure out which carrier actually has the best network. Once again, the answer is “it depends”, but there are some useful data, thanks to OpenSignal. OpenSignal are creating a database of cellular network towers, collecting data through crowdsourcing. Civic-minded users can download the free Android or iOS application and leave it running; it collects cellular networking information while running in the background, stripping it of identifying information as it does. In exchange for this volunteer effort, they create coverage maps that are freely available to view by anyone, anywhere, any time.

OpenSignal published their State of US LTE report in March, and based on the data collected from 103,025 users, they have determined that:

  • Sprint has the most-improved LTE coverage over the past 6 months,
  • Verizon has the best LTE coverage at 83.2%, and
  • T-Mobile has the fastest LTE network, at 11.5Mbps on average.

this article also appears in the GSG blog


Happy 41st birthday, cellular phone!

martin cooper

41 years ago today, on April 3rd, 1973, Motorola’s Martin Cooper (pictured above with a Star Trek communicator — I’ll get to that in a moment) made the first public wireless phone call. He did so while doing something that we typically do today but must’ve seemed outlandish back then: while walking along New York City’s Sixth Avenue. In the spirit of competitive engineering one-upmanship, he called Joel Engel, who was had of research at Motorola rival Bell Labs.

Here’s a Discovery Channel dramatization of that historical call:

Cooper’s 1973 cellular phone was made on a device that weighed 1134 grams and had a battery life of about 20 minutes. It was a brick compared to today’s flagship phones; the Samsung Galaxy S5 weighs in at 145 grams, and the iPhone 5S is an even lighter 112 grams, and both have battery lives that reach into the double-digit hours, not minutes.

kirk on communicator

If we’re going to credit Martin Cooper, we also need to credit his inspiration: Star Trek. Here’s Cooper explaining how Captain Kirk became the muse for the technology he’d eventually invent:

If you want to watch the whole show that this clip came from, it’s on YouTube, and the show’s called — rather bombastically — How William Shatner Changed the World.

It would be another decade before cellular calling capability would be made commercially available. On October 13, 1983, the first commercial cellular phone call was made by Bob Barnett, president of the now-defunct Ameritech Mobile Communications, made a call on a cellular phone in a parking lot outside Soldier Field to Alexander Graham Bell’s grandson in Germany:

Here’s a quick recap of what the cellular revolution has brought, just in case you needed a refresher:

In conclusion: happy 41st, cellular phone!

happy birthday cellular phone

Click the photo to see its source.

this article also appears in the GSG blog


WWDC 14 FAQ: The no-fluff guide on how to apply for a ticket, and why you should/shouldn’t go.

wwdc 2014

It’s that time of the year again: the time when people start trying to get tickets to WWDC 14, the 2014 edition of Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference.

When and where is WWDC 2014?

This year, it will take place from Monday, June 2 through Friday, June 6, 2014 in San Francisco at Moscone Center West.

Are you eligible to apply for WWDC tickets?

To be eligible, you need to have a developer account in one of these programs:

  • iOS Developer Program
  • iOS Developer Enterprise Program
  • Mac Developer Program

…and that developer account has to have been active when WWDC was formally announced on Thursday, April 3, 2014 at 8:30 a.m. EDT (GMT-4) / 5:30 a.m. PDT (GMT-7). You’re not eligible to apply for tickets to this year’s WWDC if you signed up for your developer account today after 8:30 Eastern.

You also need to be at least 13 years old to attend. If you’re between the ages of 13 and 17 inclusive, you’ll need a parent or legal guardian to complete the submission form.

Okay, I’m eligible. Now what?

Go to the WWDC ticket registration page (this link will take you straight there, bypassing all of Apple’s preamble) and submit your information. That’s it.

The demand for tickets is, to use a Steve Jobs-ism, insanely great, so you’re not actually buying a ticket at this point, but entering into a lottery. If you’re one of the lucky people selected in the lottery, you will be able to buy a ticket.

Make sure you apply by Monday, April 7 at 1:00 p.m. EDT (GMT-4) / 10:00 a.m. PDT (GMT-7), otherwise you won’t be eligible for the lottery.

How do I find out if I won the lottery?

Apple will notify you whether of not you won a ticket to WWDC in the lottery by Monday, April 7 at 8:00 p.m. EDT (GMT-4) / 5:00 p.m. PDT (GMT-7).

How much will a ticket cost if I win the lottery?

US$1600. Actually, it’s US$1599, but I won’t let you fall for the ol’ “price ending in ’99′” trick.

Don’t forget that there are also the costs of meals, travel, and accommodations. The Pickwick, the cheap-and-cheerful choice of many people who go to conferences at Moscone (it’s a short walk away), will run you about $220 a night at the early bird rate.

Is it worth going?

it depends

I’m going to have to go with the Standard Consultant’s Answer: “It depends”. Much of the material covered at WWDC sessions appears in Apple’s own documentation as well from other online sources, and Apple makes videos from WWDC sessions available on its Developers site (Steve Hayman informs me that the videos of sessions go up on the same day). If you’re going just to learn iOS/Mac OS programming, save the $1600 + hotel and travel costs and wait for the session videos to appear in Apple’s Developers site. If you really want to learn iOS/Mac OS programming that week, take the week off, pick a tutorial or project, and code, code, code.

The reason to go to WWDC is the actual in-the-flesh experience itself. I’d have loved to have had the chance to catch a real “Stevenote” in person, and hey, even a Tim-and-Craignote might be fun to see in real life as well. There’s also the open access to Apple engineers for in-person Q&A. And finally, there’s the chance to network with iOS and Mac OS developers and other techies, and the opportunities that can arise from that sort of thing (never, ever underestimate that!).

I think the “Is it worth going?” question was answered pretty nicely by this guy, who posted the following to a MacRumors discussion forum back in April 2009:

If you learn enough to increase your sales by around $10/day, or make enough connections to get (or contract out) a few dozen hours of consulting work, or find some new business partnerships or opportunities, attending could be more than worth it.

Plus, if you are selling apps, the tax deduction likely pays for a healthy percentage of the business cost (but ianal & ianacpa).


You’ll probably also want to read the Quora question “Why should a developer go to WWDC?”.


By popular demand: The TCP/IP layers, featuring cats!

osi network layer cats

The “OSI Network Model, Featuring Cats” picture was a hit on Twitter; I have pages and pages of retweets. Who knew there was such a demand for layered diagrams featuring stacked felines?

Of course, OSI pretty much remained a model, mired in bureaucratic turf wars and interminable committees, and was eventually usurped by TCP/IP. While considered more hackish by academics and other standards hounds at the time, it was actually implemented, and it’s the reason you’re enjoying all these networking cat pictures right now. TCP/IP has four layers as opposed to OSI’s seven, and luckily there just happens to be a cat picture online with 4 stacked cats:

tcp-ip cat layers

The photo is perfect, right down to the homemade pile of cardboard boxes, which do a great job of symbolizing the JFDI (“Just Effing Do It”), “worse is better” approach that TCP/IP’s implementors. It contrasts nicely with commercially-made plastic stacking baskets from the OSI cats photo.

If you’d like to know more about the differences between the OSI and the TCP/IP approaches, take a look at the IEEE Spectrum article, OSI: The Internet That Wasn’t. You might also be interested in Alex Martelli’s Google talk, Good Enough is Good Enough.